The ZIMBABWE Situation
An extensive and up-to-date website containing news, views and links related to ZIMBABWE - a country in crisis
Return to INDEX page
Please note: You need to have 'Active content' enabled in your IE browser in order to see the index of articles on this webpage

Bennett granted bail, but remains in jail after State opposed

By Violet Gonda
24 February 2009

High Court Judge Tedious Karwi granted jailed MDC politician Roy Bennett
bail on Tuesday, but the Deputy Agriculture Minister designate will remain
in police custody after the State opposed bail. Bennett had been granted
bail of US$2 000, told to surrender his travel documents and report twice a
week to Harare Central police Law and Order section.

However the Attorney General's office invoked a section of the Criminal,
Procedure and Evidence Act, which allows them seven days to appeal the
ruling. This means the MDC official will remain in a Mutare prison until the
State's appeal. Just last week the same thing happened to one of the groups
of political detainees.

Bennett's lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said the State is invoking the clause for
improper reasons and she wants the matter challenged in the Constitution

She said the State is involved in nothing more than delaying tactics, as
often they never do bother to appeal the bail ruling, but by their actions
the person stays inside for another 7 days. "We feel that we have reached a
stage where the invoking of that section ought to be tested in the
Constitutional Court because it is quite obvious that is being abused
clearly for non legal reasons but for political reasons," Mtetwa added.
Meanwhile, the MDC issued a statement saying: "This is provocation of the
highest order. It is time the inclusive government salvaged itself. The
inclusive government is failing Roy Bennett, Jestina Mukoko and all other
political hostages, and in essence, is committing gross violations of
people's human rights."

Bennett is charged with possessing firearms for insurgency, banditry,
sabotage or terrorism, while the other political prisoners detained in
Harare are facing similar acts of banditry against the Mugabe regime.

During Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's official visit to South Africa
last week he spoke to President Kgalema Motlanthe on the issue of the
political detainees and it's believed that pressure was put on Mugabe to
release the prisoners.

But the day before Bennett's bail hearing Mugabe had told a visiting United
Nations delegation that it is up to the courts to decide the detainees'
fate. The Herald newspaper reported that Mugabe said he would consider
pardoning anyone convicted and jailed, in the spirit of unity.
But Ralph Black, the MDC's deputy representative in the USA, said: "The
principle of mercy, only after the legal process is complete, should be
applied to the perpetrators of human rights abuses, who in most cases are
known ZPF operatives and officials. Roy Bennett's alleged crime is
The defence team insists the Attorney General Johannes Tomana, through his
prosecutor Chris Mutangadura, has no case and is using the same old tricks
to deny the accused their rights.

In Bennett's case Mtetwa said: "It was the usual nonsense that he will not
stand trial, he will abscond, and he will interfere with witnesses. But we
said this is a man who came back voluntarily to Zimbabwe knowing that there
was this case. That is not someone who is going to abscond."
The prosecutor also said Bennett would interfere with witness Peter
Hitschmann. But the defence team argued that there was no way that the MDC
official could interfere with Hitschmann, who has been in jail for the past
three years. "The State's case is so weak that no reasonable person would
want to run away when it is quite clear they will be acquitted."

During Bennett's bail hearing Mtetwa told the High Court that Prime Minister
Tsvangirai would stand as surety for Bennett's bail application. However the
State interpreted this as political interference by the Prime Minister's
But Mtetwa disagreed, saying bail rules said that a person applying for bail
can give names of any person of substance who is prepared to stand as surety
for his appearance in court. She said the PM's office did not go behind
anyone's back but did it in terms of the law.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zimbabwe's vice-president foiled in 3,600kg gold deal

February 24, 2009

Graham Keeley, Barcelona
Joyce Mujuru, Zimbabwe's Vice-President, has been accused of being the
mastermind behind a multimillion-dollar gold deal in defiance of
international sanctions.

Mrs Mujuru tried to sell Congolese gold to a bullion dealer with offices in

Appointed by Robert Mugabe five years ago, Mrs Mujuru is among 200
Zimbabweans who have faced European Union sanctions for alleged human rights

She used her daughter, Nyasha del Campo, as a go-between in the deal to sell
3,600kg of gold for $90 million to Firstar Europe, a dealer in precious
meta. At the current market rate, one kg of gold sells for $25,000.

Related Links
  a.. How 'Botox Bob' defies old age
  a.. Amid the hunger, a feast for Mugabe
  a.. Tsvangirai asks South Africa for aid
Mrs del Campo, who lives in a luxury mansion in Madrid, offered the gold
that was originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her Spanish
husband, Pedro del Campo, who represents two gold dealers' companies,
Onsafara International and Berline Equities Corp, sent e-mails in poor
English to Firstar offering the bullion.

Investigations by the company revealed that the real seller was Mrs Mujuru,
who is on its blacklist.

Bernd Hagamann, Firstar president, told The Times: "Our investigations
showed who was really involved in the deal - Mrs Mujuru - who is on our
blacklist. So we refused.

"We have no interest in buying gold from people running a country where
people are dying of cholera [Zimbabwe] or from Congo, where the money from
any deal would be used to buy arms to kill more people.

"This is bloody gold. These people are criminals."

Mr Hagamann said that after refusing to go ahead with the deal, he had
received a telephone call from Mrs Mujuru.

"She said, 'Some people will visit your house. You and your daughter will
have problems'. But I was not afraid. It was funny. I told her she would
have problems coming to Europe."

Mrs Mujuru and her husband, Solomon, a former head of the national army, are
among the wealthiest and most powerful people in Zimbabwe, with extensive
mining interests.

Mr Hagamann said that the deal was negotiated through a lawyer and he was
sure that the gold existed. It was to be transported from the Congolese
mine, then sent via Kenya to Zurich where Firstar was to hand over $100,000
for transportation costs.

He said it would have been a very large consignment. "You are lucky if you
get 500kg on the market. Fort Knox only has 15,000kg," he added.

He said Mrs del Campo threatened legal action when Firstar declined to go
ahead with the gold deal.

Mrs del Campo did not answer her mobile telephone today.

The case, which is the subject of the File on Four programme on the BBC
tonight, raises concerns about attempts by members of unsavoury regimes to
break sanctions.

Firstar receives regular offers of gold from blacklisted buyers. Recently,
it was offered a consignment of $40,000 marked with the name of Marcos which
investigators believe was from the former dictator of the Philippines. It
refused the offer.

First it's Grace with diamonds and now it's Joyce with gold

Grace and Joyce could set up together. I hear that the Mugabe's are planning
an importing and polishing business in mainland China, all ready for when
they flee Zimbabwe. Perhaps the Mujuru's intend to join them. A regular
thieves den.

James , Beckton, East London. UK.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zimbabwe turns to teenagers to combat mutiny

24 February 2009

Zimbabwe has embarked on a mass recruitment exercise of rural youths to be
trained as soldiers against the backdrop of massive desertions of
exasperated junior and middle ranking officers over low pay.

Soldiers in the country have been forced to turn to crime, looting shops and
supermarkets and confiscating money and food from civilians; sparking fears
of full-blown mutiny.

Runaway inflation estimated at sextillion per cent meant that the buying
power of soldiers who were being paid in local currency until this month had
been eroded, forcing many to desert the armed forces.

The army employs about 30,000 soldiers but was told that
only about 20,000 soldiers or less are left in Zimbabwe as a result of the

"The last two months witnessed a high number of desertions without any
official notice," a senior army officer said.

Another army officer added: "Most of the junior soldiers deserted jobs after
having received no response from the authorities about their submitted
letters of resignation."

The army's top brass, who have strong links with president Robert Mugabe,
bar junior and middle level soldiers from quitting on suspicions that they
are leaving national service to work with enemies of Zimbabwe to push for
regime change.

Most of the senior military leaders participated in Zimbabwe's 1970s war of
independence and have vowed unwavering loyalty to Mugabe, who at 85 years is
one of Africa's oldest leaders.

In a bid to protect against the massive resignations, army officials said
they will up to the end of March embark on a mass recruitment exercise of
youths in rural areas for training as soldiers.

Strict requirements, like a basic educational qualification, that have been
synonymous with past recruitment exercises have been waived to woo jobless
rural youths to the army, was told.

Zimbabwe army Spokesperson Major Alphios Makotore said: "The mass
recruitment started this week and will run through to the end of March.

"There are no specific or strict requirements. What is only needed is that
the youths should be fit and weighing about 50 to 60kgs and with a height of
between 1.68m and 1.7m. Holders of the national youth certificate have an

President Mugabe introduced national youth service in 2000, saying the
programme is aimed at instilling patriotism, discipline and appreciation of
Zimbabwean culture.

Entrepreneurial skills were supposed to be part of the national service

However, military training, denouncement of the opposition and ruling party
slogan chanting took up most of the training time. The graduates were
nicknamed the Green Bombers because of their green military type attire.

According to army sources, sparking massive resignations of junior soldiers
is the huge salary gap between them and the top brass that Mugabe relies on
to maintain grip on power.

Senior members of the army earn about $2,000, are well looked after and
regularly diverted scarce army resources for private use on huge tracts of
land they had been allocated.

Junior soldiers were being paid in the hyper-inflated local currency until
this month when prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai paid them $100 vouchers

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Robert Mugabe's secret plan against white farmers

President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has drawn up a secret plan to
accelerate seizures of land owned by white farmers in Zimbabwe.

By Peta Thornycroft in Harare and Sebastien Berger
Last Updated: 6:09PM GMT 23 Feb 2009

The Commercial Farmers' Union estimates that at least 100 farmers have been
targeted for eviction and invasion in the last two weeks.

They appear to be the first victims of a secret plan drawn up by Mr Mugabe's
allies to ensure that "everything in their power" is done to remove the
white farming community from their land.

Details of the plan, seen by the Telegraph, make clear that a co-ordinated
campaign against the farmers is underway despite the new power-sharing
government with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The land grab, which began in 2000, precipitated the country's collapse, as
it destroyed commercial agriculture, the mainstay of the economy, while Mr
Mugabe used gifts of farms to shore up loyalty in his divided party.

The former opposition party, which last week started work in a unity
government, has promised a land audit and that seizures will stop, in the
knowledge that the country's agriculture sector will be key to its recovery.
More than half the population needs food aid and the farmers' situation will
be a key test for the effectiveness of the power-sharing government.

But under Mr Mugabe's unilateral allocation of ministries between the
parties, both the justice and lands portfolios remain in the hands of his
Zanu-PF party.

Earlier this month officials from the two ministries, the police and
magistrates attended a secret meeting in Chegutu, north of Harare.

A set of notes from the meeting, obtained by the Telegraph, revealed that
its purpose was to "find ways that could enhance quicker prosecution of
former commercial farmers".

The document is evidence of bad faith regarding power-sharing on the part of
Zanu-PF, which sceptics believe will try to outmanoeuvre the MDC within the
government, as Mr Mugabe did to Joshua Nkomo's Zapu party after the Unity
Accord of 1987.

While in office, Zanu-PF insisted that the land seizures were legal and
victims who resisted were committing a criminal offence by trespassing on
their own farms. It claimed that anyone holding an "offer letter" on a
property from the lands ministry was automatically its rightful owner.

At the meeting in Chegutu, Johannes Tomana, the attorney-general who has
himself been allocated a seized farm - is reported to have said there had
been "unnecessary delays" in farmers' trials as a result of their legal
representatives challenging the constitutionality of the process.

Harare's chief magistrate, Herbert Mandeya, said that a ruling by a tribunal
of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to which Zimbabwe is a
signatory, that the farmers' rights had been violated "must be disregarded
as it does not form part of our law".

"He said that it was improper for new beneficiaries to be barred from
entering or getting near their farm when they are genuine owners in terms of
the law by virtue of them being holders of offer letters," the notes say.

Some farmers have fought back and obtained High Court injunctions against
those who have taken their land. But David Mangota, the permanent secretary
in the justice department, said that such orders will be "will be dealt with
by a different forum in the near future".

The meeting decided that "lands officers together with law enforcement
agencies must do everything in their power to assist in the eviction of
former commercial farmers", according to the notes.

Another similar gathering was held a few days later in Mutare, south-east of

Fewer than 300 white farmers are left in Zimbabwe, as opposed to 4,500 when
the invasions began, and even then they have only small portions of their
original landholdings left.

The CFU's director, Hendrik Olivier, said that the eviction campaign was
accelerating and that its targets had £70 million worth of crops in the

"About 100 are being done over now, maybe more. They are being fast-tracked
for eviction and others are being forced out," he said.

Doug Taylor-Freeme, the vice-president of the SADC agricultural forum and
Zimbabwe's largest maize producer is due in court on Tuesday.

The secret meetings were held before Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime
minister, but whether the MDC will be able to stop the process will indicate
whether Zimbabwe's power-sharing is meaningful or just a charade. Given
Zanu-PF's control of the relevant ministries, doing so may be a challenge.

The MDC spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, who is now also the information minister,
said: "The MDC is clear that there has to be security on the land and for
those who have planted their crops so that these farmers form the anchor of
a sustainable recovery process.

"We don't believe in disruptions, and these attempts are to unjustly enrich
individuals when it is clear we must be focusing on the reconstruction and
stabilisation programme."

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

EU has no plans to lift sanctions on Mugabe

February 24 2009 , 7:40:00

Richard Newton

The European Union (EU) has no plans to lift sanctions against
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and 200 other officials, at least not in
the short term. Speaking after an EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels,
the bloc's Foreign Policy Chief, Javier Solana, said its policy had not
changed despite the formation of the unity government.

The meeting did not even feature Zimbabwe on the agenda, something
unusual for the Foreign Ministers' meeting. There is usually at least some
comment on Mugabe, the welfare of Zimbabweans or an update of the targeted
sanctions. But this time the issues were all a lot closer to home for the

The Middle East, Afghanistan, the credit crunch and the Western
Balkans filled the agenda. It appears that calls for the EU to lift
sanctions against Zimbabwe are likely to go unheeded for some time. Solana
says sanctions will be maintained and perspective on greater co-operation
will be given when the situation changes.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

SADC finance ministers to discuss Zimbabwe rescue package

APA-Harare (Zimbabwe) Finance Ministers from the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) will meet in South Africa on Wednesday to
discuss a stimulus package to pull Zimbabwe out of a nine-year economic
crisis, state media reported here on Tuesday.

The official Herald daily said that Finance Minister Tendai Biti would lead
a Zimbabwe delegation to meeting scheduled to take place in the southern
city of Cape Town.

The meeting is expected to come up with a financial package to jump-start
Zimbabwe's economic recovery process. The meeting is being held ahead of the
SADC Council of Ministers' conference which starts in the same South African
city on Thursday.

South African President and SADC chairman Kgalema Motlanthe at the weekend
said he had called for the special meeting to develop a plan to help

Biti said Zimbabwe was optimistic the region would come to its assistance in
terms of budgetary financing and credit lines.

His ministry was working on a short-term economic stabilisation programme
which would be presented at the finance ministers' meeting, he said.

"We will present our plans on the way forward in respect of sustainability,
stability and in respect of credible policies. It will be a saleable
presentation," he said.

The SADC finance ministers meeting comes in the wake of last Friday's
meeting between Motlanthe, Biti and Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai in Pretoria, the South African administrative capital.

Tsvangirai revealed at the meeting that it would take at least US$5 billion
to resuscitate Zimbabwe's economy.

  JN/nm/APA 2009-02-24

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

9 MDC activists arrested in Mbare

By Tichaona Sibanda
24 February 2009

Nine MDC supporters are being held in police custody after weekend violence
when they attempted to reclaim homes and property taken from them during
last year's turbulent election period.

Piniel Denga, the MDC legislator for Mbare, explained that the MDC
supporters had gone back to their homes to confront the new occupants and
had attempted to reclaim what was rightfully theirs.

'They simply wanted their properties back. So there was resistence and this
sparked running battles between the old and new occupants of the properties.
This is an issue that needs to be looked at by the inclusive government,
because tensions will remain high if the problem is not resolved
politically,' Denga said.

The MP said that at the height of the volatile electioneering period last
year, scores of known MDC supporters were evicted from municipal
accommodation. The houses were then given to ZANU PF supporters.

Following the disturbances several people, including some from ZANU PF were
arrested. Denga however complained that almost all known ZANU PF supporters
have been bailed out, leaving nine MDC supporters remanded in custody.

'After they were arrested on Sunday, they were cautioned and asked to come
back to court on Monday. When they came back Monday, they were taken in and
sent to remand until 9 March. There is no justification for their
incarceration. These people were actually set free and asked to return,
which they did voluntarily,' Denga said.

The case, added Denga, should be seen as a test of the country's judicial
reform, following the formation of the inclusive government. The MP
complained that law officers and magistrates were dealing harshly with MDC
supporters, while treating ZANU PF supporters with kid gloves.

'How else can you explain a situation were two sets of supporters clash, but
you only find one group rotting in prison when the other group is allowed to
be bailed out. There is a lot happening in the judiciary that makes us
suspicious,' Denga said.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

TAKE ACTION : Send a letter to JOMIC

In our mailing sent to all our subscribers yesterday, we asked people to send us letters calling for the release of all the political detainees. We will compile all your letters into one long document and send it to Professor Welshman Ncube in his capacity as chair of the Joint-Monitoring Implementation Committee (JOMIC), and ask that he gives copies to all the members.

JOMIC is tasked with monitoring compliance with, and progress on, all the items agreed on within the Global Political Agreement.

The three emails below give an idea of what some people are saying in their letters to Professor Ncube.  Please can you all add your voices!

Dear Professor Ncube

Please be so kind as to convey to your fellow delegates in JOMIC, my deep concern and that of many others, for the safety of the political detainees currently held in Zimbabwean prisons, under guard in hospital, or whose whereabouts remain unknown.

President Mugabe wonders why the whole world is concerned about high profile detainees such as Roy Bennett and Jestina Mukoko - a question whose answer should be obvious. It is because the world knows that they were not arrested according to the law and the Constitution of Zimbabwe, but were extra-legally abducted. It is also clear that the most basic remedies of justice - normally available even to hardened criminals - have been withheld from them due to direct political interference. President Mugabe cannot allow public servants within the Police, the Judiciary, the Prisons Service and the Military to intervene personally at the highest level (even using personal vehicles to facilitate an abduction) and then suggest that the law should take its normal course in these cases.

The harassment, abduction and post facto arrest of perceived political enemies of the (former) Government has to stop, right now. While these people remain in custody under inhumane conditions, the world can see that for those who only hold power by consistently violating human rights, it is still “business as usual”. It is time that servants of the State, including the Security chiefs, became accountable to the people and to Parliament.

The conditions laid down internationally for the release of inter-Governmental aid and lines of credit are fair, just and consistent with democratic norms. Every effort should be made to comply with these conditions and with the provisions of the GPA, so that the full restoration of Zimbabwe to the family of free nations, can proceed. Release of the detainees is the first step. Without that, everyone is sharing a prison cell with a corpse - the lifeless body of Zimbabwean democracy.

Yours sincerely

Dear Professor Ncube,

The whole world is watching for change in Zimbabwe. (Those with money to invest, as well as the diaspora and interested others.)

The main thing that people will use as an indicator of the balance in Zimbabwe tipping from repression to freedom is: the release of the abductees and political prisoners.

If this is not done immediately and unconditionally, it will be obvious that the terms of the GPA are being deliberately snubbed. Not by all, but by those with power. We are all watching for who has power.

That would mean the Unity agreement for the future has certainly failed before much can be done - other than swearing in heaps of Ministers and buying heaps of Mercedes (at which the world laughs and cries simultaneously, and closes their own wallets!)

Those people need to be set free!

Legal arrests and prosecutions can follow in time to come, when Zimbabwe is no longer a failed state - the illegal detentions are what we see and deplore right now.

Please share my concerns with the JOMIC committee (including Minister Patrick Chinamasa) and with President Motlanthe of South Africa in his capacity as the current Chair of SADC.


I worked with a lady who was married to an abusive man whose behaviour was aggrivated by alcohol. Two years ago he killed her and her sister after a day of drinking. He threw petrol on the sister and set her on fire, when the wife tried to leave with the child, he grabbed her and threw her on top of her burning sister. Amazingly, she managed to get herself off her sister, grab her child and run to a bottle store where the police and an ambulance was called. This lady was admitted to Mpilo Hospital where she reamined lucid enough to tell the unbelievable horror story of that night.

After handing himself in and spending probably a week in jail, he was released on bail on a Sunday afternoon. His family had arrived from South Africa and amazingly the courts ordered his release. About 5 weeks after this night, the wife passed away. This man’s sister arrived from Australia, took custody of the child, and somehow managed to silence the wife’s family about the incident. His sister left Zimbabwe with the child and this man now sits in Coronation Cottages whilst his family supports him.

I would like to know how a person who committed a double murder is allowed to remain free whilst Messrs Mukoko, Manyere, Mudzingwa, Chiramba, Zulu, Chinoto, Dhlamini, Mujayi, Garutsa, Bennet and others have been languishing in jail, some for more than two months. What kind of justice system is being practiced in Zimbabwe? Does the law only apply to certain members of society, and those who belong to the right party or have family who can pay off police and judges have a different set of rules? Is there any other country in the world where people who commit crimes don’t go to jail but innocent people do?

Please add your voice too! Please contact everyone you know and ask that they send in messages as well. Take ACTION! Send an email now.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zimbabwe Teachers Agree To End Strike

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AFP)--Zimbabwe's teachers agreed to end a strike that
emptied classrooms for a year, after the government promised to review
salaries and appealed for $458 million aid for schools, officials said

Schoolteachers have been on strike since early last year to demand payment
in foreign currency to cope with Zimbabwe's stunning hyperinflation that has
left the local dollar worthless.

They only returned to work for brief periods during that time.

The new education minister David Coltart, who took office this month when
the Movement for Democratic Change joined a unity government, has agreed to
review their demands while seeking international aid.

Coltart told the state-run Herald newspaper he had asked the U.N. Children's
Fund, or UNICEF, and other donors for $458 million to jump-start the
education system over the next six months.

Unions said teachers had agreed to return to work next week while the
government tried to secure the financing.

"We have reached an agreement that teachers must go back to school on
Monday, while outstanding specific issues are being addressed," Tendai
Chikoore, president of the Zimbabwe Teachers' Association, told AFP.

"Government has committed itself to source funds to cater for our needs. We
have agreed to go back to work solely on the goodwill shown by the
government, but we are also demanding that our salaries must match what
teachers are being paid in the region."

Takavafira Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers' Union in Zimbabwe,
said teachers have agreed to return to work. But they have asked that they
be exempted from paying school fees for their children - unaffordable on
their salaries.

Zhou said that the deal also ensured that teachers who didn't report for
work because of economic and political reasons wouldn't be punished.

"We also agreed that after three months teachers' salaries must be reviewed
to meet regional standards of 15,000 South African rands a month.

UNICEF estimates that only 20% of students are attending classes, while
almost all schools in rural areas are closed.

  (END) Dow Jones Newswires

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

UN envoy hails 'positive' meeting with Mugabe

February 24 2009 at 01:24PM

Harare - A top United Nations aid official said she had held positive talks
with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe about finding ways to combat a
raging cholera epidemic and food shortages, state media said on Tuesday.

Catherine Bragg, the assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs,
met on Monday with Mugabe and new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the
long-time opposition leader who joined a unity government this month.

She said her five-member team was focusing on the cholera epidemic that has
so far killed 3 806 people and spilled into neighbouring countries.

"We are focusing on cholera and any other form of humanitarian assistance
the UN can offer... We will assist to the best of our abilities," she said,
according to The Herald newspaper.

During the meeting with Mugabe, "we talked of the continuing partnership
between the UN and the government".

"The president spoke positively. He invited me back," she said.

Bragg said she had met ministers of labour, education, health, agriculture
and foreign affairs, as well as aid agencies working in the country.

Zimbabwe's shattered economy has made it that much harder to deal with the
growing humanitarian crisis in the country.

A report issued last week by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the country
had the health system of a country at war.

The country that was once a food exporter now has nearly seven million
people dependent on food aid. - Sapa-AFP

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Daily cholera update and alerts, 23 Feb 2009

 full_report (pdf* format - 184.8 Kbytes)

* Please note that daily information collection is a challenge due to communication and staff constraints. On-going data cleaning may result in an increase or decrease in the numbers. Any change will then be explained.

** Daily information on new deaths should not imply that these deaths occurred in cases reported that day. Therefore daily CFRs >100% may occasionally result

A. Highlights of the day:

- 1290 cases and 50 deaths added today (in comparison 920 cases and 14 deaths yesterday)

- 71.2% of the districts affected have reported today (42 out of 59 affected districts)

- 90.3 % of districts reported to be affected (56 districts/62)

- Beitbridge cumulative number of cases revised upwards by 11 cases.

- Bikita cases revised downwards from 2868 t0 2459, due to double reporting of Mukazi cases in both Chiredzi and Bikita yesterday (409 cases involved)

- Cumulative Institutional Case Fatality Rate 1.85%

- Daily Institutional Case Fatality Rate 2.05%

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Business urges Tsvangirai to craft fresh national budget

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

HARARE - Business leaders have urged new Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai to craft a fresh and "realistic budget" for Zimbabwe and
negotiate a moratorium on debt repayments among a host of measures to help
kick-start the country's stalled economy.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) urged Tsvangirai and
Finance Minister Tendai Biti - who are drafting a new short-term economic
stabilisation programme for Zimbabwe - to review and change drastically the
way the exchange rate, monetary and fiscal policies are managed.
The new government should appoint a six-member team of experts drawn
from economic ministries, the private sector and the Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe (RBZ) to manage the economic recovery programme and take charge of
exchange rate, monetary and fiscal policies.
Business leaders urged the new government to consider setting the
minimum wage at around US$60 per month to ensure local labour costs remain
Once a model African economy Zimbabwe is suffering a severe economic
and humanitarian crisis marked by the world's highest inflation of more than
200 million, acute shortages of food and basic commodities, amid a cholera
epidemic that has infected more than 80 000 people and killed nearly 4 000
A unity government formed by Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe
more than a week ago has raised hopes Zimbabwe could finally end years of
decline to regain its former status as a regional breadbasket.
The CZI, considered the voice of business in the country, said the new
administration should get "a good understanding of what is really possible
in terms of government revenue and craft a realistic budget supported by
that revenue."
The current budget of US$1.9 billion expenditure against expected
revenue of US$1.7 billion that was presented to Parliament last month by
then acting finance minister Patrick Chinamasa was unrealistic given the
depressed levels of economic activity, the CZI said in the proposals
submitted to Tsvangirai and Biti last week.
Zimbabwe should negotiate with those it owes money for a temporary
freeze on all loan repayments and use the window period to channel national
resources to revitalising the economy.
There was also urgent need for the new government to "secure lines of
credit to enable payment of sustainable salaries in foreign exchange to
civil servants which will then help start domestic demand," the CZI said.
The industrial lobby advocated a new way of doing business proposing
that the six-member implementation team be tasked to drive economic recovery
working in conjunction with the Prime Minister's office.
"We recommend the formation of a core implementation team," the CZI
said. "The team will be staffed by highly capable technical people drawn
from the RBZ and economic ministries."
The implementation team will be seconded to Tsvangirai's office and
will report directly to the Prime Minister.
"To ensure speedy decision-making, we recommend that for three to six
months that the team is in operation the team will take control of the
fiscal, monetary, exchange rate and pricing policy. It will also be
responsible for food security," said the CZI.
Among the key issues the CZI wants immediately addressed are the
rebuilding of confidence in the banking sector to attract domestic and
foreign capital. The rehabilitation of key infrastructure such as the rail
network while parastatals that continued to be drain on the fiscus should be
made to operate profitably.
The government should bring to a conclusion the issue of a new mining
law and ensure new legislation recognises the need to empower Zimbabweans
while it also does not have the effect of discouraging investment in the
mining sector. - ZimOnline

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Swedish ambassador denies story on US$600 million donor funding

By Lance Guma
24 February 2009

Sweden's ambassador to Zimbabwe, Sten Rylander, has denied reports in the
state owned media alleging that he told a civil society meeting that the
donor community would assist Zimbabwe with US$600 million over the next 6
months. On Monday the Chronicle ran a story headlined 'Donors pledge swift
aid' in which they quoted the ambassador making the pledge. But Rylander
spoke with Newsreel Tuesday and said the Chronicle article contains
'completely fabricated' statements.

Despite a press statement clarifying his position and that of Sweden, the
Chronicle on Tuesday said it stood by its story. The paper's editor,
Brezhnev Malaba said; 'We stand by our story. Is the good ambassador
claiming that we just dreamt up the amounts and timeframes stated in that
story?' Ambassador Rylander however told us; 'There have been no decisions
or commitments at all on behalf of the donor community when it comes to the
expressed need of US$ 600 million for the next six months.'

The ambassador also told us the donors had a meeting with Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai in which they made it clear they needed to see a 'policy
change and concrete action relating to good governance before re-engagement
can take place in terms of normal development cooperation.' In the meantime
he said the donors will continue to provide 'massive' humanitarian

Asked why the Chronicle would lie about his comments Rylander, a long
standing target for state media criticism, said; 'I am totally amazed at
this fabrication. Maybe they want this to happen (providing donor money),
but I am sorry we cannot do that at the present time. They are abusing my
integrity and they have done that before. Now they are trying to twist it
from another angle.'

Meanwhile the IRIN news agency reports that medical professionals are
finally returning to hospitals after NGO's chipped in to pay them top-up
financial incentives in forex, to supplement their government salaries.
Doctors, nurses and other support staff such as teachers have been on strike
for much of last year and this year. But the financial intervention from
groups like the United Nations Children's Fund has not solved the problem.
Most staff are believed to be unhappy at the allowances and although present
at work are simply on a sit-in, 'basking in the sun' while leaving junior
staff to attend to patients.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Is Mugabe sabotaging Zimbabwe's coalition government?

Opposition MPs have recently been jailed, including Deputy Agriculture
Minister Roy Bennett, who was arrested on charges of 'banditry and
terrorism.' Critics say the charges are 'trumped up.'
By Scott Baldauf | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the February 25, 2009 edition

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - The first weeks of Zimbabwe's coalition
government - a power-sharing agreement where power is unequally shared -
have not gone well.

True, Morgan Tsvangirai, the country's new prime minister and President
Robert Mugabe's sworn enemy, recently had a successful visit to South
Africa, laying out a $5 billion plan to reconstruct Zimbabwe. But members of
Mr. Tsvangirai's own party remain in jail, including Deputy Agriculture
Minister Roy Bennett, who was arrested on charges of "banditry and

And supporters of Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party have invaded dozens of farms
belonging to the few remaining white farmers in Zimbabwe. And across the
country, squabbling between members of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) and ZANU-PF - ostensibly allies in government - has turned
increasingly violent.

The arrest Mr. Bennett is of key concern for the MDC, who describe the
charges of banditry as "trumped up." Bennett was granted bail on Tuesday
afternoon by the Harare High Court, only to have the attorney general appeal
the decision, forcing Bennett to remain in Mutare Prison for an additional
week, at least.

"The continuous detention of [Bennett] is a provocation of the highest
order, and there seems to be a clear attempt to scuttle the power-sharing
government," says Nqobizitha Mlilo, an MDC spokesman based in Johannesburg.
"But we remain committed to an inclusive government and we will do
everything in our power to hold it together for the betterment of the
Zimbabwe people."

But, he warned, "our patience is not inexhaustible."

The MDC's suspicions about ZANU-PF, and whether it would truly share power,
were one of the main sticking points that delayed the creation of this
power-sharing government for 10 months.

Many experts say that the current round of violence and arrests of MDC
members is a deliberate statement on the part of Mugabe.

"The message is that the old sheriff is still in charge," says Aubrey
Matshiqi, a senior analyst at the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg.

Despite having effectively lost control of Parliament, and lost much of his
legitimacy as Zimbabwe's elected president, Mugabe has held onto the
military, the intelligence, and the security branches.

While the MDC shares control of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which controls
the police, most of the ministry's top officials and the top police
officials remain loyal to Mugabe.

"The balance of forces favors ZANU-PF, which retains all the repressive
powers of the state," says Mr. Matshiqi. Speaking of the new position of
prime minister, given to Tsvangirai, he adds, "the post of prime minister is
nothing but a toy telephone."

While ZANU-PF may be accused of provoking a breakup of government, ZANU-PF
also benefits from being a member of a coalition government, Matshiqi says.
"ZANU gets time to rebuild itself. It gives Mugabe and his generation the
opportunity to manage the transition to the next leaders of the ZANU-PF.
ZANU can also rebuild what ties it has to its dwindling rural support base."

As for trying to understand Mugabe's provocative actions, Matshiqi chuckles,
"Sometimes you try to find a logic in tyranny, and it's not always possible.
The power of tyranny is the logic, that is what is happening in Zimbabwe."

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Scathing attack on Zim's bloated govt


Zimbabwe opposition groups have launched a scathing attack following a
decision by their leaders to add more ministers to the country's "global
political agreement".

Members of Parliament from both Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
factions this week began voicing their concerns over the bloated government.

An extra 30 ministers have now been added to the 31 agreed by Zanu-PF and
the MDC.

President Robert Mugabe last week swore in five more ministers of state and
19 deputy ministers, bringing the number of ministers and deputy ministers
to 61. Another 10 provincial governors are due to be sworn in at a date yet
to be announced.

Mavambo, an opposition group led by former finance minister Simba Makoni,
said this reflected "abundantly that this government of national unity is
all about convenience for the politicians and not about delivery of service
to the people".

Job Sikhala, former MP and a senior member of a smaller MDC faction, said
party supporters were "confused and dismayed by the circus".

"This was the most stupid thing to do," he said.

"A collapsed economy like Zimbabwe cannot afford the luxury of 71 ministers,
even a country as big as the United States with 51 states has one president,
one vice-president and a Cabinet of less than 21 ministers."

According to a report in the Zimbabwe Standard, ministers and deputy
ministers were last week shown empty offices without furniture while others
are reportedly squatting in private offices.

Sources say that the government has already ordered luxury vehicles and
furniture for all ministers and that the bill was expected to run into
several million US dollars.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told guests at the MDC's 10th anniversary
celebrations last Wednesday that the government was broke.

Mavambo, which is transforming into an opposition party, said there is now
no difference between the two MDC formations and Zanu-PF.

"At least we are not surprised by Zanu-PF wanting a big government, because
we have lived with it for many years," said the party in a statement. "But
it's hard to believe that the two MDCs which have, over the years, used
every platform available to promise the people of this country that they
stood for a lean and streamlined government can readily violate their own

But the two MDC formations defended themselves, saying the transitional
government is temporary.

"We have serious misgivings with the size of the Cabinet particularly at a
time when the economy is in such a bad state," said Nelson Chamisa, the MDC

"The MDC's [Tsvangirai faction] policy is to have no more than 15 ministers.
We believe in a lean, efficient and accountable administration."

Chamisa, who is also the Minister of Information Communication and
Technology, added: "However, we have to appreciate that this is not an MDC
government: it is a transitional and inclusive government. There are too
many players involved. Our party can only have its say, not its way."

Edwin Mushoriwa of the Mutambara-led MDC said the bloated government was the
cost of getting Zimbabwe back on its feet.

"It's a compromise," he said. "If the MDC had formed this government alone,
it would have been leaner, it would have been less than a quarter of what we
have but we had to compromise."

Sources said Mugabe pleaded with Tsvangirai and Mutambara to have his extra
ministers accommodated as part of efforts to ensure "stability" in the

Mugabe pointed out the appointments were necessary in order for him to
manage the "dynamics in Zanu-PF" in the face of stiff resistance by some
members of the old guard to the formation of an inclusive government.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zimbabwe elite seeks to evade sanctions

From BBC News, 24 February

By Grant Ferrett

In a deal stretching from Nairobi to Zurich, one of the richest and most
powerful people in Zimbabwe has been accused of allegedly trying to sell
gold in Europe - in defiance of international sanctions. The vice-president
of Zimbabwe, Joyce Mujuru, with her husband Solomon, are among a small elite
who have prospered in Zimbabwe as the rest of the country plunges into
ever-deeper economic chaos. As most of the country suffers - UN estimates
suggest up to 75% of Zimbabweans need food aid, while unemployment is put at
more than 90% - they and their ilk have become very wealthy. Despite EU
sanctions against Zimbabwe being in place since 2002, and extended this
year, Mrs Mujuru has been accused of trying to fund a multi-million gold
deal in Europe, the BBC has uncovered. She was involved in a planned deal to
sell almost four tonnes of Congolese gold to a company called Firstar.

Mrs Mujuru is one of more than 200 senior officials linked to President
Robert Mugabe who remains subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze in the
European Union in spite of the creation of a power-sharing government with
the opposition earlier this month. They are accused of undermining
democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The proposed gold deal focused
on Mrs Mujuru's daughter, Nyasha del Campo, a commodities trader based in
Spain. Firstar says that although the offer, made in November 2008, to sell
3.7 tonnes of gold came from Nyasha Del Campo, it was the Zimbabwean
vice-president who was central to the deal. Felix Eimer, who works for
Firstar and is based in Frankfurt, told the BBC: "She promised us that in
order to complete this transaction, her mum would pay the total amount
necessary to transport gold from Nairobi to Zurich. "This is equivalent to
150,000 to 200,000 euros (£130,000-£175,000). The person behind the deal and
the person that organised the funding for the deal was her mother."

The BBC has seen copies of e-mails indicating that Mrs Mujuru was also
paying the legal costs. Firstar says it pulled out when it realised who Mrs
Mujuru was. It also placed the mother and daughter on its own black list,
deciding it did not want to do business with them. The certificate of origin
of the gold states that it comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC). The Zimbabwean vice-president has been unavailable for comment. Her
daughter in Madrid says she is consulting her lawyers. While the sanctions
were not breached in this instance, it does suggest that those at the top of
Zanu PF are trying to use others, including relatives, to get around them.
Mrs Mujuru's husband Solomon was head of the army after independence in 1980
and is believed to retain some influence within the military. The couple
have extensive business interests in Zimbabwe and beyond. "Within the DRC
there are huge mining exploits which are being made by Solomon Mujuru and
Joyce Mujuru," says John Makumbe, associate professor of politics at the
University of Zimbabwe. For a select few, the economic decline in Zimbabwe
has helped them to become very wealthy. "If you were to visit some of our
upmarket residential areas you would think you'd landed in Beverly Hills.
There are some magnificent properties," says John Robertson, an economic
analyst in Harare. Privileged access to hard currency from Zimbabwe's
central bank at unusually favourable rates is the key to much of this
conspicuous consumption.

"Gideon Gono, the reserve bank governor, is Father Christmas," says Mr
Makumbe. "The revenue that comes into the Zimbabwe government is kept at the
central bank, and he dishes it out willy-nilly to individuals within the
party, to Mugabe and his family without any accountability whatsoever." Mr
Gono is referred to as 'Mr Inflation'. He has presided over a policy of
printing ever more worthless Zimbabwe dollars in order to keep pace with
rising prices. The new finance minister, Tendai Biti of the long-time
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has described the central
bank as "totally discredited" and "at the core of economic decay."
Sanctions, first imposed by the EU, the United States and others in 2002,
have been condemned by President Mugabe and his supporters as being at the
root of the country's problems. There are now 203 individuals and 40
companies banned from travelling to the EU's 27 member states and doing
business there. "The problem we have had is a problem created by a former
colonial power wanting to continue to interfere in our domestic affairs,"
said Mr Mugabe last September, when signing the power-sharing accord with
the MDC.

But critics of the sanctions say they have been too narrow and poorly
enforced. "These sanctions are just not worth the paper they're written on,"
according to Norman Lamb, an opposition Liberal Democrat Member of
Parliament in Britain. "We [in Britain] stand charged of complicity and of
failing to take any effective action to bring to an end a despicable regime
which has caused such horror for its population." The Foreign Office
minister, Mark Malloch-Brown, rejects the criticism, saying they contributed
to forging a hard-fought power-sharing deal. He says of the sanctions: "They
have been pinching a nerve, I think they have contributed very significantly
to him [President Mugabe] feeling he had to do a deal with [MDC leader]
Morgan Tsvangirai." Despite calls from several African countries for the
measures to be removed, he says they will remain in place until Mr Mugabe
and those around him show they are truly committed to implementing the deal
with the opposition.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zimbabwe's multimillion dollar rescue package must be properly utilised

Comment from The Cape Times (SA), 23 February

Peter Fabricius

Zimbabwe's newly-installed Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Finance
Minister Tendai Biti came to see President Kgalema Motlanthe and his
economic team on Friday to ask for an economic rescue package for Zimbabwe.
Though Tsvangirai said afterwards Zimbabwe needed some US$5 billion for
long-term reconstruction, its seems what they want now is US$600 million in
short-term cash. That is mainly to pay civil servants, especially, it seems,
the likes of doctors' and teachers' salaries, for six months, to kickstart
destroyed essential government services such as healthcare and education.
Tsvangirai, rather recklessly it seemed, promised at his inauguration to pay
government professionals in foreign currency immediately. He and Biti have
already started doing so with vouchers though it is not clear they have the
back-up even for these and certainly their appeal to South Africa and the
region indicates that the piggy-bank is nearly empty. Motlanthe seems to
have balked at the size of the bill and has referred it to Southern African
Development Community (SADC) finance ministers and the African Development
Bank who are to meet this week to consider the proposal.

Whether SADC countries can manage the bill is a little doubtful. Perhaps
only Botswana and South Africa have the reserves. Botswana's President Ian
Khama would probably like to help his friend Tsvangirai. But he - like South
Africa and other taxpayers in the region - would surely want pretty solid
assurances that the money will serve the purpose of getting doctors and
nurses back in abandoned clinics to treat cholera patients, for example, and
teachers back in classrooms to try to recover a few lost years of education.
When Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, leader of the smaller MDC
faction, was asked how the unity government would be able to provide such
reassurances, he retorted rather testily that he and his MDC colleagues were
"not children" and did not have to be tied to any contracts to ensure they
spent the money properly. He noted that the Zimbabwe government delegation
to see Motlanthe comprised two MDC leaders, Tsvangirai and Biti and no
President Robert Mugabe or Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono. This was a
sign of the MDC's control. But Mutambara did not mention that he had just
had a very sharp clash with Gono over economic policy. On Thursday,
Mutambara advised Zimbabwean business people to ignore Gono's recent
monetary policy statement and the then acting Finance Minister Patrick
Chinamasa's recent budget, saying both would soon be reviewed. Gono shot
back a day later, "reassuring" confused business people that "nothing will
be reviewed and nothing will be reversed" and severely reprimanding
Mutambara for causing disruption in the economy by playing politics with
something he did not understand.

These two statements were in effect explicit declarations of war for control
of economic policy although there had already been some preliminary shots.
These were mainly related to Biti's decision to pay public servants in US
dollars, requiring him to free up foreign exchange transactions more than
Gono wanted, presumably because Gono likes to keep enough greenbacks under
the mattress to ensure that Mugabe and his spendthrift wife Grace continue
to go on shopping sprees to Hong Kong. But whatever the outcome of this
economic tug-of-war, it needs to be resolved before we all pour hundreds of
millions of rands into Zimbabwe. And it would help to know we are not paying
for the salaries and the Mercedes-Benzes of the ten or so entirely
superfluous new "ministers of state" who were appointed last week, initially
to satisfy Mugabe's demand for more patronage than he was able to supply,
having to share with the MDC. But then the MDC demanded their share of new
posts too. It was not a every encouraging sign that the MDC went along with
this demand, inflating the cabinet to some 41 ministers and 19 deputies. Is
that what the unity government is all about?

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Cricket tour to Zimbabwe postponed

2/25/2009 8:24 AM
The Black Caps will not be touring Zimbabwe this year as scheduled, with the
tour postponed until June next year

New Zealand's cricket tour to Zimbabwe has been postponed until next year.

The decision comes after discussions between New Zealand Cricket boss Justin
Vaughan and his Zimbabwean counterpart during the ICC chief executives
conference in Johannesburg.

The Black Caps will now tour in June 2010.

The announcement follows more than a week of speculation, after Prime
Minister John Key indicated he was preparing to step in to prevent the tour
going ahead.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Commission of Inquiry on Zimbabwe begins its work, mindful of the process of dialogue and reconciliation underway in the country
Type Press release
Date issued 24 February 2009
Reference ILO/09/11
Unit responsible Communication and Public Information
Subjects collective bargaining, ILO conventions, freedom of association, ILO Governing Body
Other languages Español • Français

GENEVA (ILO News) – The Commission of Inquiry, set up by the Governing Body of the International Labour Office at its 303rd Session (November 2008) to examine complaints concerning the observance by Zimbabwe of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), held its first session in Geneva from 18-20 February 2009.

It will be recalled that two complaints were submitted under Article 26 of the International Labour Organization Constitution in June 2008: one by Workers’ delegates and the other by Employers’ delegates to the International Labour Conference at its 97th Session.

The Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Governing Body is composed of: Judge Raymond Ranjeva (Chairperson), former Senior Judge at the International Court of Justice, and Conciliator at the World Bank International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes; Professor Evance Rabban Kalula, Professor of Employment Law and Social Security and the Director of the Institute of Development and Labour Law of the University of Cape Town, and Chair of the South African Employment Conditions Commission; and Dr Bertrand Ramcharan, Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists, former Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Under-Secretary-General, former Director of the Office of the Special Representative for the Secretary-General in UNPROFOR, and former Director in the United Nations Political Department, focusing on conflicts in Africa.

At its first session, the Commission took a number of decisions concerning its procedures, methods of work and timetable. It also sent letters to the Government, the complainants and other interested parties, seeking additional information concerning the issues raised in the complaints regarding the situation of freedom of association in the country.

The Commission took note of the recent inauguration of the Government of national unity in Zimbabwe and extended its wishes for the success of the new Government and for the full realization of the Agreement between the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations, on resolving the challenges facing Zimbabwe, as signed on 15 September 2008. It expressed the hope that these developments would have a positive impact on the issues of trade union rights that fall within the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry. The Commission has written to the President and Prime Minister of Zimbabwe along these lines and has shared its sentiments with the leadership of the African Union and SADC.

The Commission hopes to make a visit of goodwill and initial contacts to Zimbabwe at the beginning of April.

The Commission will reconvene for a second session later in April, when it will undertake visits to the region, and hold formal hearings in both the region and in Geneva. The Commission’s plan includes a longer visit to Zimbabwe so as to be able to obtain the fullest understanding of the reality of the situation concerning the observance of the freedom of association Conventions in the country in the context of efforts to take forward the process of dialogue and national reconciliation.

There have been eleven Commissions of Inquiry previously established by the Organization. Such Commissions are the highest level of the ILO supervisory mechanisms.

The Commission, while working in the judicial spirit that characterises ILO Commissions of Inquiry, at the same time is desirous of contributing to the process of reconciliation and healing in Zimbabwe on the basis of African and international standards on labour relations and human rights.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Messina refugees in limbo

February 24 2009 at 07:05PM

Johannesburg - Up to 4 000 Zimbabwean refugees are "waiting in limbo" in
Messina, activists said on Tuesday.

Gender Equity Commission head Nombuniso Gasa and Emily Wellman of Idasa were
briefing the media following a visit to the refugees in the border town.

The had found "up to 4 000 people [who] are waiting in limbo, undocumented
and confined, many sleeping on cardboard, the lucky ones with plastic
sheeting to cover them as they sleep," Wellman said.

Gasa is on the 14th day of a 21-day hunger strike to "help the people of
Zimbabwe by highlighting the issue of hunger".

"A lot of people in Zimbabwe go without food and they don't have a choice.
So some of us are choosing not to eat as an act of solidarity," Gasa said.

She is the second person to go on hunger strike with the Save Zimbabwe Now

The first was global civil society organisation Civicus honorary president
Kumi Naidoo, who ended his 21-day hunger strike on February 11, at which
point Gasa began hers.

She will finish her hunger strike on March 3 when Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza
is due to begin his.

Wellman said many others, among them Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, had
gone on one-day a week hunger strikes to demonstrate solidarity with the
people of Zimbabwe.

Gasa said Save Zimbabwe Now was prepared to continue the hunger-strikes.

"When it will stop, we don't know," she said. - Sapa

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Cholera crisis continues to worsen as case numbers rise

By Alex Bell
24 February 2009

The cholera epidemic has continued its deadly spread across the country,
with the World Health Organisation (WHO) reporting on Tuesday that the
inflection rate has climbed to more than 83 000 cases.

The number is a jump of more than 2000 cases since the WHO's last report on
Saturday, which showed more than 81 000 cases. The official death toll too
has continued to climb and is fast approaching the 4000 mark, with more than
3800 reported deaths. The official figures are still widely believed to be a
small percentage of the true extent of the disease, and untold thousands are
feared to be dying in their homes because of a lack of accessible treatment
in the country.

The new figures come as a five-member UN delegation is in the country to
assess the humanitarian crisis that sources have explained is claiming more
than 3000 lives across the country each week. According to medical charity
Doctors Without Borders, the cholera crisis is merely the most visible
indication of the true extent of the whole crisis, which includes the
complete collapse of the health system and a crippling country-wide food

The UN assessment team held talks on Monday with both Robert Mugabe and
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, on ways to combat the cholera epidemic and
food crisis. Catherine Bragg, the UN assistant secretary general for
Humanitarian Affairs, is leading the team that includes officials from the
WHO, the World Food Program and the UN Children's Fund UNICEF. According to
media reports Bragg has said that Monday's talks with Mugabe were 'positive'.

The team's visit was only made possible following talks between Mugabe and
the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, on the sidelines of the African Summit
in Ethiopia last month. It is the first humanitarian fact-finding team that
has been given the official green-light to enter the country by Mugabe,
whose regime has previously tried to keep extent of the crisis hidden.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Bank Queues Resurface

24 February 2009

Harare - QUEUES have formed at most banking halls as civil servants seek to
encash their foreign currency vouchers.

Yesterday morning, most banking halls were full with queues spilling outside
as hundreds of people jostled to exchange their US$100 vouchers, received as
an allowance from the Government.

Although others had chosen to purchase groceries as witnessed in some shops,
the majority would rather have the vouchers encashed to settle their bills.

Yesterday afternoon, some banks said they would have to extend opening hours
to accommodate more clients.

The vouchers were this month issued to civil servants as an allowance from
Government to allow State employees to access to goods and services now
being sold in foreign currency.

Last week, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said from next month, civil servants
would be paid their allowances in cash.

The vouchers' face value was pegged at a basket of basic goods for a family
of six.

Some civil servants complained that while the encashment of the cheques was
a noble idea, the unavailability of hard currency at some banks posed an

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Mercy only after legal process - Mugabe

February 23, 2009

By Raymond Maingire

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe is adamant that he can only exercise his
prerogative of mercy on dozens of incarcerated Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) activists, alleged to be plotters of terrorism, only when the
court process has been exhausted.

Mugabe, who turned 85 last weekend, is under pressure to release the
political prisoners in the spirit of the all-inclusive government
inaugurated this month after painstaking negotiation between his Zanu-PF and
his bitter rivals in the MDC.

Nearly 30 MDC and human rights activists have been languishing in remand
prison since December 22, 2008 on allegations of terrorism and attempts to
overthrow Mugabe's government through acts of banditry and insurgency.

Following their abductions by state security agents in October, they had
been kept in secret detention amid intense denials from Mugabe's government
about their whereabouts.

Lately, a top MDC official Roy Bennett, who was due to be sworn in as
Zimbabwe's deputy agriculture minister last week, was arrested as he was
about to fly out to Johannesburg to visit his family.

Bennett, who escaped from the country three years ago after the state tried
to arrest him on alleged illegal possession of weapons, had been granted
asylum in South Africa.

But Mugabe on Monday defiantly told a visiting United Nations aid team that
he could pardon political prisoners only when the courts have dealt with
their cases.

The visiting UN team, led by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian
Affairs, Catherine Bragg, also met Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai,
together with ministers of Foreign Affairs, Labour, Education and Health to
receive briefs on the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe.

A ZBC TV news broadcast reported Monday that the Zimbabwean leader had
expressed satisfaction on the new relationship with his erstwhile rivals.

"He took the opportunity to clarify the issue of the so-called abductees,
saying in the case of those facing allegations, some of them very serious,
and whose cases are before the courts, the law should take its course," said
the ZBC.

"He explained that his prerogative of exercising mercy through granting
amnesty can only be considered after the courts have completed their work."

Mugabe, whose government was slapped with targeted sanctions by the West for
human rights abuses and failure to free democratic space, was defiant on

"Why are sanctions there now," Mugabe said.

"They have punished the people sufficiently and Zimbabwe's expectations are
that the United Nations should not be abused by the powerful nations.

"No matter how powerful they are, we will oppose them and we will resist
them (sanctions). We are frank here and unafraid."

Tsvangirai has, on the other hand, said that the continued jailing of his
party's members is playing against efforts to bring credibility to the new

"We cannot claim we are a government which wants to give people their
freedom while on the other hand arresting innocent people," Tsvangirai said
to crowd estimated at above 25 000, which had gathered to celebrate his
party's 10th anniversary in the Midlands capital of Gweru on Sunday.

"This government will lose credibility if we continue on such a path. We are
very conscious, we are very much aware of the credibility gap when we engage
on those activities of unmitigated arrests. We are concerned about that and
we will deal with that."

The MDC is adamant the charges leveled against its activists are trumped up.

Lately, the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), was
reported as "working on a solution acceptable to all political parties" on
the fate of the accused persons.

The JOMIC is a local watchdog created at the instigation of SADC, brokers of
the unity deal.

The new government, that has left Mugabe firmly in control of the levers of
power while apportioning Tsvangirai the responsibility of repairing the
bartered economy, is at pains to charm the charitable international
community in efforts aimed at restoring economic prosperity to Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's economy, which has pushed 94 percent of the population into the
chaotic informal sector and further decimated the middle class, is reeling
under years of economic mismanagement by Mugabe's once populist government.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Desperate wait for food in Zimbabwe's cities

 BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Feb 24 (AFP)

Moses Nkomo, a 72-year-old grandfather of 10, cannot imagine how he would
have survived without food handouts from relief agencies in Zimbabwe, where
more than half the population faces hunger.

"I have been surviving on handouts since November last year," said Nkomo, a
resident in Makokoba, one of the oldest and poorest sections of the
country's second city of Bulawayo, while waiting to receive food hampers
from the aid group Oxfam.

He is among the nearly seven million people in Zimbabwe who need food aid,
according to the United Nations, which has sent a top-level humanitarian
team to find ways of curbing the food crisis and a devastating cholera

Zimbabwe has suffered chronic food shortages for nearly a decade, but the
severity of the crisis has grown so quickly that relief agencies are
struggling to keep up with the soaring need for aid.

The UN's World Food Programme estimated in June that about five million
people would need aid. Last month they revised the estimate to 6.9 million.

Nkomo is one of 4,000 residents in his neighbourhood registered to receive a
food basket that includes ground soya, the staple cornmeal, salt and peanut

Only a lucky 280 receive the handouts.

In past years, rural families bore the brunt of food shortages but now
townsfolk are feeling the pinch, as many have no means of livelihood in a
country with unemployment at 94 percent.

Last year food had disappeared from store shelves. Now shops are fully
stocked but demand payment in foreign currency -- something ordinary
Zimbabweans simply don't have.

As Nkomo awaits his turn, 63-year-old Queen Dube receives her rations at the
front of the line, with her granddaughter helping carry the donated goods.

"In the past things were good," Dube says. "Things were not this difficult,
we never suffered like this. Never.

"Although the white man's government exploited us and harassed many people,
at least they made sure we were never hungry. This new government must work
for the good of people."

Long-time opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister
this month in a unity government with President Robert Mugabe.

He has called for a massive increase in investment and aid for Zimbabwe,
which has been hobbled by stunning hyperinflation that has left the local
currency worthless and the economy in shambles.

In a country where 1.3 million people have HIV, many households are headed
by children or grandparents because the parents have died or are ill. Those
families are the first to benefit from aid, but not all will receive.

Simon Bhebhe, an 84-year-old grandfather and former teacher, is furious.

"Despite the fact that I have been registered to receive food since November
last year, I have been again told that there will be nothing for me today,"
Bhebhe said.

"My name is not appearing on the list again."

Bhebhe said he spent 15 years in prison for resisting the white-minority
Rhodesian government, and now said he survives from "hand to mouth" as his
son -- who was the family's breadwinner -- died last June.

"I sell goats to make ends meet, but life is difficult. For goodness sake, I
fought for this country," he fumed.

"Now it's time to move forward and put our political differences aside. I am
glad that Morgan Tsvangirai is now in government and I hope he can work with
Mugabe," Bhebhe said.

"Now my advice to the new government is that they must put the lives of the
ordinary men on the street first as priority number one."

James Sithole, a local councillor in Bulawayo, said that so many people now
need food, aid agencies just don't have enough to go around.

"Here in Makokoba, this is where you find the poorest people in Bulawayo if
not in the whole country. Due to scarcity of resources, not everyone will
receive food," he said.

As the hours tick by, the winding line disappears and the packed 30-tonne
truck is left empty. Most of Makokoba still wonders when they will eat.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

The Beachhead Expanded

Eddie Cross
Harare, 23rd February 2009

The situation in Zimbabwe is really difficult to read right now. I have
journalists and analyst friends who are watchers with a lifetime of
experience and knowledge and they simply cannot make out what is going on.
One of my early ancestors fought with Robert the Bruce in Scotland against
the English and I can just imagine what that must have been like - thousands
of men with simple arms running at each other and doing battle. From the
sidelines the men in command would be watching and I am sure that it would
not be clear for some time, who was winning.

When the Allies landed at Normandy, even though they had prepared
meticulously and used deceit and guile to confuse those defending the
beaches of Normandy, they could not have guaranteed what the early outcome
would be. The smoke and confusion, noise and the inevitable muddles that
accompany such an operation would guarantee that progress could not be
reported on for many hours - maybe days.

So it is in Zimbabwe. MDC has opened a beachhead in hostile territory that
has been under Zanu PF control for 29 years. Anyone who thought that those
who did not want this would give up and lie down, are naïve. Many argued
that we should never have gone in - should have waited until the collapse in
the country beyond the beachhead would soften up the opposition. Our problem
was that our invasion fleet was already at sea and turning back was not an
option, we had to take our chances on the beaches.

The opposition had been trying for a couple of years to get us to abandon
the landings. They tried every ruse in the book, even holding some of our
troops for ransom and exerting every provocation. When we eventually went
in, they were taken by surprise and were then forced to fight back. By then
it was too late for them - we were on their territory and were well prepared
and equipped.

What we found when we landed was a seriously disillusioned population and a
force whose rank and file no longer had the stomach for the fight. Although
their elite forces and many senior officers were still loyal and had some
resources and weapons, they are greatly outnumbered by those who quickly
changed sides.

The opposition elite have a great deal of cunning and experience and have
reformed what is left of their forces and are fighting back. Like all such
conflicts it eventually rests on logistics - who can fight on longest and
who has the better reinforcement capability. In 1944/5 that rested with the
USA even though the majority of the troops on the ground were European. It
was the factories of the US that actually eventually gained ascendancy at
Normandy, although it was the courage of the men on the beaches that caught
our attention and won our admiration.

The key to understanding what is going on in this fight lay in six chairs
that were empty at Morgan Tsvangirai's swearing in at State House 10 days
ago. Their occupants were invited, came and left before the ceremony. They
meet daily, in secret to plan their fight back and have financial and
civilian support. The beaches are found in the Courts of the land where
Bennett and Mukoko and their lawyers do battle, in the government buildings
of Harare and out on the farms where skirmishes rage.

We know where their funding is coming from and who their foot soldiers are.
We know who the key players are and what they are doing; we are not deceived
by their seeming acquiescence in meetings with our team on the beaches. We
also have two huge advantages, we are on the right side of history, are
fighting to defend our own freedoms and values and our cause is just.

They seek to defend tyranny, corrupt and inept administration and vast
secret abuse of basic humanity. That they are good fighters is not in
dispute, that they are ruthless and willing to go to extreme lengths to get
their way, is also not disputed. It's just that they have nothing but greed
and power to defend and in the end that is not enough.

Another lesson from the beaches of Normandy and perhaps my ancestors is that
the men in the battle knew they were winning before it became apparent to
the commanders on the hills. When they secured the beachhead and then
climbed the cliffs, they found only light armour and resistance - the hard
battle reinforcements were still critical days away. When they gained a
village or a town and were greeted with joy and happiness by those who had
cowed and cooperated with the occupation forces, the men on the ground knew
they were winning.

Battles still to fight ahead and another year of conflict before Hitler died
in his bunker, but they were on their way and eventually they knew victory
was certain. They mourned the casualties but honoured their courage and
determination. Most important of all, they knew the factories at home were
working and they were not alone.

I feel the same way. Those watching from the hills cannot see what is
happening on the ground - it's covered by smoke and dust. We are beyond the
beachhead and are encountering resistance but nothing that we cannot handle.
As we fight inland, further from the beach we watch anxiously to see if the
logistics are working - because we are using our ammunition and food rations

Right now the international community are watching from the hills and saying
they will wait and see who wins before they send additional supplies. They
are giving us the basics, but that is not enough to win. Our regional
friends are coming to our aid but they do not have the capacity to really
push us into a commanding position. It's time for faith and courage. They
should put their faith in our ground troops, after all we have been at it
for ten years - twice as long as in the Second World War and I think we have
proved our commitment to the key principles of freedom and democracy. They
must exert the courage of their convictions and back us in this fight.

As for us, we are in this for as long as it takes. I can remember an
interview with Golda Meier after the Six Day War in the Middle East. She was
asked what the secret of the Israeli Army was. She replied, "We have nowhere
else to go". What a privilege to be a part of the landing that brought
freedom, democracy, the rule of law and justice to our own country at a time
when it really mattered. Final victory is still a long way off, but at last,
we are on our way.

Back to the Top
Back to Index